Cab Calloway

When I first met Cab Calloway I was on a spacewalk with Alexander Gerst, a German buddy of mine, replacing a light on an ETVCG attached to the outer hull of the ISS. We had made our way from the Quest Joint Airlock two hours previous and it was the last job on our list before heading back inside. As always, Alexander was complaining about Oleg Artemyev’s body hair. I was only half listening, the sensation of screwing the bulb into place while watching the Earth spin was pushing me towards an acute existential crisis.

He reminds me of a bear, said Alexander.

 That’s because your German, I muttered.

 I was with him on a beach when activists threw animal blood on him because they thought he was wearing fur, he said.

 I’m sure, I said, absorbed in my own thoughts.

 Hey, what’s that? he asked.

 I looked up. From the direction of the Russian Orbital Segment was a man seemingly tap dancing across the cold void of space. He was wearing a flowing Zoot Suit and his mouth was moving, though no sound reached us. As he approached, I held out my hand so he could grab onto me before drifting away.

 What are you doing out here, I asked.

 Where’s your Orlan? asked Alexander, referring to the man’s lack of a spacesuit.

 The man couldn’t hear us as he had no radio strapped to his head. He spoke, but when we didn’t reply the man produced a pencil and notepad from his pocket and wrote, I’m Cab Calloway and I’m on a short rotation of the planet.

 That’s crazy, said Alexander.

 That's pretty cool, I said.

 He must have read our lips because he began to silently laugh. Cab underlined the phrase ‘I’m Cab Calloway’ three times then spun a full 360 degrees before taking a bow.

 I think I’ve been up here too long, said Alexander.

 Want to hear a song? wrote Cab.

 I can’t hear you talk, never mind sing, I said.

 No problem, wrote Cab, and he floated closer, so close his mouth became clamped to my visor and I at once heard his voice as it vibrated the polycarbonate. Cab sang a heart-breaking rendition of St. James Infirmary Blues featured in the Betty Boop cartoon Snow White(1933). He finished, pushed away from me and performed his infamous dance move ‘The Buzz’.

 It looks like he’s moonwalking, said Alexander.

 Now who’s crazy? I asked.

 As Cab slid backwards through space, he scribbled a note and propelled it my way. I managed to catch it.

 Call me when you touch down on solid ground, it said. Which I did, of course, and we’ve been friends ever since.


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